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Town officials ponder future uses for Jefferson Elementary School

by Tara Giles
Sports reporter - Coos County Democrat and Berlin Reporter
July 19, 2018
JEFFERSON — At a recent special meeting in Jefferson, residents voted on whether or not to accept the Jefferson Elementary School as town property. More than 80 people voted in favor, and less than 20 voted no. Currently the Jefferson Select Board is in the process of putting together a survey to be mailed out, to get the public's ideas on what they would like to see done with the school.

Technically, the town has yet to acquire the building, and is waiting on the SAU 36 school district to finalize paperwork.

Select Board Chair Cindy Silver explained, "The legal team between the district and the town are working on when the deed will be exchanged, and it should be happening soon."

Silver said there are some ideas floating around town as to what to do with the space however nothing is etched in stone.

"It is really up to the people in town to decide. There has been talk of a community center or a recreation hall for kids. We could potentially move the library there or use it as a place to have suppers, fireman's breakfasts and other fundraisers," said Silver.

Since the school was such a big staple of the town, Silver said it could create income.

"It could be a place for family reunions or other gatherings, especially with the pavilion built in the back," she said. "It would be perfect for smaller weddings. There is a beautiful field with 20 some odd acres that could also be utilized, a plus is the school is already handicapped accessible."

Currently in Jefferson, the tax collector has no office. The building that houses the Jefferson Town Offices only has two offices, one for the town clerk, the other for the board of selectman assistant. If the offices were moved to the school building, the tax collector would not have to work from home.

Silver said, "There are so many ideas; there is a ton of room at the school, which is great. We have a lot to hear back about from the people. Right now we're compiling questions for a survey that will go out in early August. The deadline for suggested questions is on July 20."

Any questions townspeople would like to see on the survey can e-mail the town or reach out to any of the board members.

Silver added, "The school could be utilized for a lot because it's in a perfect spot in town. It's on a quiet road, if the library were to be housed there, no one would have to cross the busy street where it is now, especially because there is no cross walk where the current library is."

As for the morale in Jefferson among residents since the school closure, Silver said, "People are doing fine. Some are heartbroken. That school helped so many kids throughout the years because it was more hands on. The smaller numbers made sure kids who needed extra attention received it."

Silver went on to say, "The morale feels ok. I think when school starts in September things might feel different, which reminds me of another idea brought forth, which is an after school program."

Silver stressed that the board really does care about what the townspeople want and wishes to hear every voice with a thought on the topic.

"As a board, we are really here for the people," she said. "We're trying to think outside of the box and come up with a plan that works for the community."

Volunteers in town have been working on a 'Greening Up Jefferson' project to beautify the town. As a result, there are now window boxes at the Town Hall as well as the library.

"Banners were put up, all new this year. Everything that has been done is through donated funds and time. The kids in town painted the window boxes so it's been a true community collaboration," said Silver.

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